Environmentally-Friendly Entertainment

There are two films showing in theaters now which deal with environmental issues in a responsible manner, but in very different ways. An Inconvenient Truth, directed by Davis Guggenheim and starring former Vice President Al Gore, can be viewed at many local art theaters (including the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, Long Island), while the DreamWorks animated film Over the Hedge is currently running at major cinema chains nationwide.

An Inconvenient Truth is based on the informative global warming presentations which Al Gore delivers on a regular basis, worldwide. It’s not thrilling in a cinematic sense, for it plays like a lecture; however, it is a highly important and dreadfully persuasive lecture which everyone should heed. Every point Gore makes is supported by graphs, charts, photography and thoughtful analogies designed to make abstract ideas tangible to the average viewer. I’m not going to comment too much on the film’s content, because The Armchair Critic’s very own Scott just happens to be an atmospheric physicist; here are his insights into the documentary from a different perspective.

Gore’s personal life is brought into the film, including reflections on his 2002 loss for the U.S. presidential bid. I’m sure this is designed to be, in part, political self-promotion; however, he’s earned it: Gore is not paid for the work he does lobbying for the environment, in what the film’s website calls a “fervent crusade to halt global warming's deadly progress in its tracks by exposing the myths and misconceptions that surround it." Whether you like Al Gore or not, the points he makes must be made, and acted upon, before it is too late. It is a wakeup call for adults and a good education for the young.

Over the Hedge is, of course, specifically designed for young people; however, its humor is smart enough to hold the attention of any adult. It is the tale of a band of small creatures who wake up after winter hibernation to find that most of their forest has been transformed into a vast housing development. The film wryly comments on the rapacious appetites of contemporary suburban dwellers and how rampant development of open lands leaves our wildlife with no habitat other than silver garbage cans which they can raid for junk food. Many famous folk lent their voices to the characters of the film, including Bruce Willis, Wanda Sykes and William Shatner; especially hilarious is comic Steve Carell as a manic squirrel.

When viewing the film I thought that this was possibly one of the funniest and cleverest animated films I’d ever seen…until the end of the film. There is no solution provided or even suggested at the end: the bad guys trying to exterminate the animals are vanquished and everyone’s happy, but these and countless other animals must still muddle through life—or die—in ever-dwindling natural habitats. What’s to be done? This is not discussed. The end of the storyline also disintegrates into crazy car chases and the chief “villain,” a single, childless career woman obsessed with keeping her home and housing development pristine—obviously all the trademarks of an undesirable individual—proves herself to be evil beyond any form of credibility (a Cruella deVil for the new millennium). Yes, it’s just a cartoon—but just as the messages we send children about our environment in peril hold great importance to how the next generations will treat the natural world, the human stereotypes we present to them instruct them as well.

Overall Grades:

An Inconvenient Truth: A-
Over the Hedge: B+

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